Zarate’s comeback marks victory for Tiger Cross Country

Sometimes running in the off-season to stay in shape can be difficult, but senior Jaime Zarate knows just what to do. Zarate left Cedar Falls late fall during his junior year to move back to Torreon, Mexico, but now he is back for his senior year to take on all of the challenges running brings.

“When I was in Mexico I was just doing a bunch of triathlon stuff mainly. So, I was just kind of swimming with the swim team, my school, running with a couple runners from my town (this group of really good runners). So I was running with them and doing some workouts and long runs. And then I’d go on a bike ride with a group of bikers, so I was just kinda swimming with swimmers, running with runners and biking with bikers,” Zarate said.

With the cross country season almost halfway over, Zarate continues to push himself in every practice and during races. He is listening to what head coach Troy Becker knows is going to help the team succeed and help Zarate succeed individually.

“Well, I’m just going to follow the training plan for the cross country team because it’s what helps the best for cross country, and coach Becker knows what he’s doing. We’ve talked, and we both have high goals for me this season, and he’s going to help me achieve those,” Zarate said. Becker knows just what to do to help Zarate come out strong in the end, with a second place team finish at State last year and third place team finish the previous year.

While in Mexico, Zarate got the chance to train outside in warm weather during the winter rather than the the slick streets around Cedar Falls — an advantage he took full use of with multiple options for running and biking.

“I guess one of the biggest differences is the weather, the weather there [in Mexico] is always warm, so it was almost an advantage to get to train outside all winter with really nice weather. It’s a bigger city, so there’s a lot more places to go to to train,” Zarate said.

Even though Zarate’s family is over 1,600 miles away, they’ve always been on the sideline cheering him on — from the start of the race to the end.

“I started running by putting one leg in front of the other and then doing that repeatedly really fast, so that’s how I started running.” Zarate jokingly said. “I’m kidding, I started swimming when I was very little. I started swim team when I was about five and in the winters on my swim team we would start doing some base work so we would do some running, so I kinda started to really like doing that, and then eventually I started doing some running races. I started doing pretty good, so I really liked it [running], which with the swimming and the running it led into triathlons,” Zarate said.

Many runners believe that if something worked well for them at one race, it’ll give them positive results in another race, which is how routines develop. Although not fool-proof, many runners have their own way of preparing for a race.

“Well, it usually starts a couple days before the race, usually one or two days. I make sure to hydrate a lot; I drink a lot of water and go to bed early. The day of the race I usually just try to stay calm, not to think about the race too much during school. When we get on the bus, I drink my Ensure (a nutritional shake), and then I take about a 30- to 45-minute nap. When I get to the race site, we, the men’s cross country team, do the race stuff like going over the course, and then I watch some of the other races. At camp I have to take a 10- to 15-minute nap. After that, we start our warm up, and then when we’re going to start sprint drills I take my Clif Shot Bloks, an energy chew,” Zarate said.

Long distance runners always tend to lean toward the healthy, high in nutrition foods before races. Staying hydrated always plays a major role in running, which is why many runners point out that hydration is key.

“I eat Clif Shot Bloks or the Gatorade Carb Energy Chews. Those are pretty good; I take those about 15 to 20 minutes before the race. I try not to eat too much, like an actual meal, at least three or four hours before I race. [I drink] water, or like I said, Ensure because I like to keep my stomach pretty light,” Zarate said.

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